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2018-08-31

What makes a project a project?

The ultimate 5 characteristics of a project

In the literature there are numerous Attempts to define the term “project”. It goes back to the Latin origin of the word (proiectum = the forward Cast), so the essential features of the projects are already visible. Today, in scientific publications, v. a. the following project characteristics are highlighted: objective, timeliness, novelty, uniqueness, complexity, and specific organization. In the framework of the DIN standard 69901-5 the project concept is defined. Thereafter, a project is a “project which is Essentially characterized by the uniqueness of the conditions in their entirety, such as

  • Target,
  • temporal, financial, personnel or other limitations,
  • project-specific organization.“


However, with this DIN-normalization are trying to prepare the Definition no end, because this Definition also raises questions. So is not about to be clarified what is meant by a “project-specific organization”.

We define: a project is A project that is limited in time, due to the novelty and uniqueness is characterized, as well as a considerable size and a high degree of complexity.

We decompose this Definition into its individual components, we get the following five characteristics of projects:

  1. Time limit For a project is provided from the beginning a date for the completion of the project. Although each task is completed eventually, but for a project the end of the project work is planned. On closer examination, the project is not, however, to identify the end of always. This is particularly the case when a project becomes an ongoing production if, for example, the project “development of a new product” leads to a subsequent production. Thus, a certain amount of instability is associated with it, because it resources must be provided, on their availability at the end of the project re-planned. This also results in appropriate consequences for the design of the project organization.
  2. Novelty: A project is a new challenge, since it is a repeated routine operation, but a Penetration in a more or less unknown territory. The procurement of information about the project is therefore dedicate special attention to. With the high innovation content of the projects a high level of risk is inextricably linked.
  3. Uniqueness: A project is a unique project; it differs from the routine tasks. Individual activities in the framework of this project can be of a routine character. This project is repeated, it loses the character of a Project and becomes Routine. Not infrequently, a routine task is a project. As examples, The development of custom software to standard software, or the marketing of the findings from the corridor by a subsidiary company to the stock exchange at the company Jenoptik for the advice of stock exchange applicant company.
  4. Size: As a project-specific Management, v. a. a specific planning process and a separate project organisation demands, there must be a certain order of magnitude, which justifies this use. The demarcation of the border is understandably not exactly. This characteristic is relative in the sense that it depends on the proportionality to the entire range of tasks of a company.
  5. Complexity: A project consists of several interdependent sub-tasks, which are to be coordinated. Your perception will be transmitted to different people from different areas of expertise on a temporary basis. With the characteristic of complexity, a high level of difficulty is associated.

This Text comes from the book project management by Professor Dr. Franz Xaver Bea, Professor Dr. Steffen Scheurer, Sabine Hesselmann: 2., revised and expanded edition, 796 pages , ISBN 978-3-8252-2388-5

The book shows the “State of the Art” of project management and innovative impulses for the further development. New is the representation of a close relationship between project and Strategic Management. The three authors draw on up-to-date discussions: on topics such as project management Assessment, Critical Chain and Agile project management. Numerous examples as well as questions and answers will help students with the understanding of control and allow you a quick applicability. In addition, the title is also suitable for practitioners who want to update their knowledge on project management.

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